I think this is the question that doesn’t get asked enough – What are you struggling with? It gets asked in certain settings. It gets asked by therapists and doctors. I’ve heard variations of this question in other settings too – What are the financial obstacles that the organization is facing? The military is really good at this question – what is our opponent doing?
But I’m wondering – do we ask this question well in the church? In some places I think we do. And in some places I think we miss opportunities. There’s a variety of reasons for that of course. We can come up with a ton of excuses for why we don’t, but who cares about the excuses right?
I think the question is really important because of what it can lead to. Just asking the question of what are we struggling with opens us up to sharing a reality that we are 1. not ok. 2. not the savior. 3 need other people/help and 4. not the facade that we are putting up. There’s more of course. That’s just the simple version.
What are you struggling with is a hard question to deal with for a lot of folks. It’s about being vulnerable. And our culture isn’t oriented towards vulnerability. But our church is all about a message of being vulnerable. That’s a clash of values. What are people to do? That’s a struggle in and of itself.
What are you struggling with? Hmm. As a society we want easy and simple. Struggle implies something much more complex and perplexing. It implies ongoing. It implies something less concrete and more abstract. Sometimes the things we struggle with are difficult to put words around. That makes them even more difficult. I think that’s part of what he author of Ephesians meant when he wrote “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12).
What are you struggling with? We want to put on the facade that everything is alright. We want to make it seem like we are ok. But then what’s the point? Why gather in community if you ok? Why gather with others if you don’t need their support? To show how awesome you are doing? Sure, there are times when you are doing well and you can be a support to others. But no one who has ever walked the earth is ever that person 100% of the time. Everyone needs support and help at some point, and often we need support in various ways often.
What are you struggling with? American culture wants the middle class to keep up with the Jones – to put on a facade that makes it seem like everything is ok. To put on a mask to hide whatever you are struggling with. That only ends in disaster and pain and brokenness. Oh how hard it is for the middle class to admit that it needs help and healing and that it is struggling with many things.
What are you struggling with? American culture wants the wealthy to be seen for what they have – ouch. To be dehumanized like those in poverty based on ones’ possessions. Hmmm. That has got to hurt. To not be seen for who you are, but for what you have. Oh, what are you struggling with?
What are you struggling with? American culture wants those in poverty to be seen as not doing enough – no different than the message Pharaoh gave thousands of years ago of “make more bricks!” The culture wants you to believe that your worth is only based on what you can produce and that you will never get out of the hole that you are stuck no matter how hard you work and no matter how much you produce. You are exhausted. Oh, how do you go on struggling? What is left?
What are you struggling with? Purpose? Meaning? Pain? Sorrow? Debt? Broken relationship? Addiction? Identity? Work?
What are you struggling with? Being alone? Being forgotten? Being pushed away? Having your voice silenced? Having your very being dismissed?
What are you struggling with?
See it comes down to this question – do you think you are alone in this struggle? Because if you think you are alone, wow. That’s a scary place to be. And church, why, oh why do we not address this better? What are we afraid of? The vulnerability? Is that what we are supposed to be about? I know, this is a direct confrontation with a cultural value. Are we willing to struggle with it? OOOOO. There we go. That’s the challenge.
What are you struggling with? Is the church willing to struggle alongside the people? Or does it see itself as something separate too?
I hope not. Because I don’t. And I don’t think others do either.
The church is described as a body. An interconnected body. That means what affects you, affects me. What you struggle with, I struggle with. And vice versa. We aren’t independent, separate beings in that regard. There is no us and them in the church. We struggle together.
I think we have some great opportunities ahead of us. We have opportunities to rethink how we struggle together. It requires us being intentional and proactive. It requires us to say “this is important and we are going to devote the resources of time, money, and people to this.” And then making it a priority. It requires shifting from being in response mode, to leading mode and seeking out. It means innovation and thinking differently about church and culture and society and how things operate and function – often thinking in ways we might not have considered before because the situation is brand new. It’s not that the past is bad or can’t be a guide. It’s just that we are new territory.
We have an opportunity in front of us. We’re in the midst of it. There are lots of people struggling. They don’t have to and they shouldn’t struggle alone.
What are you struggle with?